Iraq (MNN) — Protests in Baghdad haven’t stopped since the new Iraqi prime minister was appointed at the start of the month. Anti-government protestors say Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi is just more of the same and unlikely to bring any significant, positive change to the country.
Prime Minister Allawi is slated to name his cabinet members this week – a crucial step that will reveal the sincerity of his promises to avoid political interference. Some of the protestors’ complaints include the prevalence of government corruption, the lack of jobs, and poor public services.
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs says another group is also wary of this new appointment – Iraqi Christians.
“Really, that’s not new,” Nettleton says. “They have been concerned. Many of these are believers who…have been displaced by ISIS. Some go back even before ISIS. They have seen persecution. They know that serving Christ in Iraq is a risky proposition.
“When the government changes hands [and] new leaders come to power, there are new areas of emphasis. The Christians watch that and say, ‘Okay, what is this going to mean for us? How is this new leader going to respond to the needs of the Christian community?’”
One of the big questions for Christians: how much sway will Iran have in the formulation of new Iraqi leadership?
Nettleton explains, “Iran is one of the world’s most closed…countries aggressively persecuting the Church in Iran. So if Iranian leadership have influence on how Iraqi leadership sets up what their priorities are, that is not something in favor of Iraqi Christians as well.”
Iraq is ranked as the 15th worst country to be a Christian on Open Doors’ World Watch List. So it’s understandable that many believers flee Iraq and seek asylum status in other countries.
“It is not a safe place for them. It is not a safe place to raise their families,” Nettleton says. “Intellectually and in the earthly sense, it makes all kinds of sense for them to want to get out of the country and go someplace safer and go someplace with more opportunities.”
However, Nettleton was amazed and encouraged when he spoke with a pastor in Iraq about the situation for Iraqi Christians. “At the end of our conversation, I said, ‘I’m going back to the United States. How can we pray for Christians in Iraq?’
“His first prayer request, without a pause, he said, ‘Pray that God will call Christians to stay here…because we need Christians in this country. We need a lighthouse. We need people who are sharing the Gospel.’”
Please join VOM in praying for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq during this leadership change. Ask God to provide a courageous witness for the Gospel in Iraq. Pray that Iraqis who are dissatisfied with the government will find hope — not in new leadership — but new faith in Jesus Christ.
Header photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.